5 Questions--Draft Strategy

theCFFsite welcomes guest writers Byron and Craig in a piece that debates strategies to implement on draft day.

This is the first in a series of pre-season articles that will debate different topics related to preparation for the upcoming season.  Topics will include draft strategy, roster management, and trade strategy.  We look forward to providing guest columns to theCFFsite for the upcoming 2015 season.

Our standard league structure is laid out below so that you can understand the basis for our answers.  If your league structure is different, then your strategy will probably be somewhat different as well.

  • 12-Team League
  • Former BCS Conferences + Independents (SEC, PAC, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, AAC, Notre Dame, Army, Navy, BYU)
  • Standard Scoring with .5 PPR
  • **The Manziel/RG3/Cam Newton Rule - QB touchdowns, Passing AND Rushing = 4 points.
  • Starting Positions:  1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 FLEX (WR/RB), 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DST + 6 reserve slots  

In this article, we debate 5 questions that most fantasy owners ask themselves when preparing for their draft.  We subscribe to the adage, “You can’t win the league on draft day, but you can certainly lose it.”  Undoubtedly, the folks who have the best drafts are in a better position to win early and parlay those early wins into trade leverage and continued success.  So then what can you do when planning for draft day to put yourself in the best position to win your league?  We discuss that below.

Question 1) What position(s) should I use my early picks on?

Byron’s take:

I believe this is where you have to fight your preconceived notion that the quarterback is the most important part of a football team. This may be true in real life but you are trying to build a successful FANTASY team! I think you have to go after a great RB1 in the first round and probably an RB2 in the second. With the running back by committee (RBBC) becoming more and more popular, you have to secure a dominant running back early in order to ensure points get put on the board. Injuries at this position tend to become a problem so leaning on your stud RB from the early rounds in the first few games and then picking up other positions through free agency or later draft picks is your best move.

Craig’s take:

Prepare for some depth, here.  I think this is absolutely CRITICAL as your first few picks can put you in a great spot or a really, really bad spot.  In my experience the team with the best group of RB’s tends to be there at the end - every year.  Note that our scoring system does not give 6 points for QB rushing TD’s - so that contributes to the “RB first” strategy to some degree.  

Touches are a sure thing for a team’s bell cow RB.  Those RB’s don’t depend on a QB’s throwing prowess like a WR does.  Additionally, on average, an A+ RB is more likely to get touches inside the 5 than an A+ WR.  How about QB’s vs. RB’s?   I lean towards RB’s because it’s much easier to find a 20-25 point QB for a one-week fill in than it is a 20-point RB.

My draft goal is usually to get 2 solid RB’s with my first two picks.  If a truly elite WR is available with my second pick, I consider picking him up depending on what the RB situation looks like.  For instance, last season I picked 8th and 17th.  I took Langford at 8 and intended to take another RB at 17.  However, by the time the 17th pick rolled around 9 RB’s were already off the board, but no WR’s had been taken.  I took Antwan Goodley because he was the number 1 WR on my board (ended up being a huge mistake). I ended up taking RB’s in rounds 3 (Buck Allen), 4 (Ezekiel Elliot), and 5 (Artis-Payne).  The point of the story - you have to adjust your strategy based on what the other league members do.  

Last point - because elite RB’s are so hard to find, others will overpay for them on the trade market.  So if you are able to grab a few really solid RB’s, you can leverage them for excellent return via trades in weeks 3, 4, and 5 when struggling teams are trying to find a way to win a few games and make a playoff push.  Because WR’s and QB’s are usually easier to find on the waiver wire early on, those RB’s you scored in the draft become extremely valuable.

Question 2)  When should I take a quarterback?

Byron’s take:

This really depends on your league. If you are still getting 6 points per touchdown for a QB then the strategy is a little different than if you are getting 4 like most leagues in the post RG3 era are doing. If you are still getting 6 then securing a dual threat QB early is important. If you’re only getting only getting 4 then I’d advise you to WAIT. Every year there are a number of QB’s that come out of nowhere to put up good numbers (Manziel, Trevone Boykin, Blake Sims, Anu Solomon, etc.) . Another thing to consider is that MOST people in your league are going to get that itch to draft a QB early and then go through 6-7 rounds of drafting RB’s and WR’s. This gives you the perfect opportunity to pick up some stud WR’s and RB’s in the first few rounds and still get AT WORST the number 12 QB in your rankings.

Craig’s take:

I rarely take a QB before the 6th round.  It’s a personal preference more than anything, but you can look at a schedule early on and find two quarterbacks whose matchups line up with one another so that you get good production week-to-week and then grab those two in rounds 8 and 9.  There are usually between 15 and 20 solid QB producers in a BCS-only league.  That means that you can grab a solid quarterback after everyone else has already used a draft pick on one.  Most fantasy owners don’t start grabbing backup QB’s until the 8th or 9th round - which means that if everyone else grabs a QB in the first three rounds, the same QBs who are there in round 4 will be there in round 8.  If you don’t choose to grab an elite QB in the first round (and I wouldn’t) then wait until the middle rounds because those fringe guys will still be there.

Check back later in the week as Byron and Craig answer the following three questions in the second part of this piece:
Question 3)  When should I start considering Sleepers?  How do I identify them?
Question 4)  How early should I be taking Defenses, Tight Ends, and Kickers?

Question 5)  How does the strategy change in keeper leagues?

You can follow Byron and Craig on Twitter @CFFTweets

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